Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Lord Will Rescue Me. . .
...those words we heard from the Second Letter to Timothy offer us a way in to today’s scriptures and to the mystery we celebrate here. Do we really believe that the Lord will rescue us? By “believe” I don’t mean a mere nod to that, or that our minds give assent to the Lord’s desire to save us. Rather, by “do we really believe” I mean, do we live out of the Lord’s desire to save us? Does the Lord’s desire affect how we live, how we choose, how we respond to others?
To believe that the Lord will rescue us doesn’t mean we have everything all figured out. It means we have an attitude, a disposition that we’re in God’s presence, God who is present to us in everything, inviting us to come closer. That attitude and disposition, that I am in God’s presence, God who is creating me and blessing me each moment, offers tranquility and centers us even in chaotic circumstances. This tranquility registers as feeling accompanied in doubt and dismay, as well as in joy and calm.
The characters in Jesus’ familiar parable, the Pharisee and the tax-agent, illustrate this from one who really believes the Lord will rescue him as well as from one who doesn’t really believe that. Which one do you think really believed and which didn’t? Consider just the two points I mentioned earlier: to believe that the Lord will rescue me doesn’t mean that I have everything all figured out; it means I have an attitude, a disposition that I am in God’s loving presence. Who really sensed God present? The tax-agent! Correct you are!
The Pharisee was convinced that he was not like the rest of people, naming three particulars, greedy, dishonest and adulterous. Plus, he fasted twice weekly and tithed. We know from experience that the Pharisee was mistaken. In the first place, who of us hasn’t felt greedy, dishonest or adulterous? We may have restrained ourselves from acting out those and other trespasses, but all of us have fought temptations; and we've given in to some.
The Pharisee also exaggerated. While tithing was encouraged and practiced, fasting twice a week wasn’t the norm. Mondays and Thursdays became Jewish fast days, but no one was obliged to fast on both. The Pharisee was claiming he surpassed others! The tax-agent, however, made no claims at all. Nor did he give God a speech; he prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ He was clear about that one thing. He was honest.
Again: to believe the Lord will rescue me means that I have an attitude, a disposition that I am in God’s loving presence. The Pharisee was in the temple, but he spoke [his] prayer to himself. Plus, he had an eye on the tax-agent: not only am I not like the rest of humanity--greedy, dishonest, adulterous--[I’m not] even like this tax collector. Giving God a speech while looking over his shoulder at whomever else was in the temple: that’s talent! It isn’t prayer. The tax-agent did not presume to tell God anything, only to implore God’s mercy.
The tax-agent, as his simple, profound prayer showed, really did believe that the Lord would rescue him. The Pharisee’s speech, on the other hand, showed how he trusted in his own efforts with their consequences--not focusing on God but on others about whom he was suspicious. This was Jesus’ intent with his parable: to point out those who were convinced of their own righteousness and [who] despised everyone else.
Trusting in our own efforts, as if they were not God’s gifts to us in the first place, is a far cry from living out of the Lord’s desire to save us. To trust in our own efforts is a universal human temptation. For some people their efforts are their idols. Our individualistic and consumerist society so subtly and too easily makes personal efforts one’s idols.
Do we readily go before God asking that God save us, that God be merciful to us? The Lord will not delay in showing mercy to those who ask for it honestly. The Lord will not delay in showing mercy to those who ask for it honestly. In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week ask for the grace to converse more honestly with our Creator and Lord. Then do three things: 1) pause in Jesus’ loving presence; 2) allow Jesus’ particular gifts you enjoy to surface on our hearts; and 3) relish each one as it surfaces and express your gratitude to Jesus, his Father and their Holy Spirit for it. End your leisurely time your Creator by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer to help make this your P A R for daily praying:
P: pause in God’s loving presence;That P A R of daily praying is the way our Lord begins to rescue us.
A: allow God’s gifts to me today to surface on my heart; and
R: relish each gift and express my gratitude to God for it.
Both Wiki-images of the Pharisee and the Publican are in the public domain.